Thousands of charter-school supporters wearing neon green shirts that read "My Child. My Choice" marched across the Brooklyn Bridge Tuesday in a show of strength directed at front-running mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio.
A proponent of putting more resources into traditional public schools, de Blasio has said he would not expand charter institutions and would charge rent to some operators who now get space in public school buildings for free.
"I don't really support his claims," said Adam Senhaji, a fifth-grader at Harlem Success Academy. "If I could vote, I wouldn't vote for Bill de Blasio."
"You're coming to work for my campaign," Republican rival Joe Lhota told the 8-year-old from Jackson Heights.
De Blasio defended his position later at an urban innovation summit co-sponsored by Mayor Michael Bloomberg's philanthropic group in Battery Park City.
"The future of this city -- and I would argue the future of the entire country -- rests on traditional public schools," de Blasio told the audience of global city leaders.
Bloomberg and Lhota have been at odds with the United Federation of Teachers union over charter schools. De Blasio, a Democrat, has been endorsed by most city unions, including the UFT.
Lhota favors closing failing schools and relocating charter schools to traditional public school buildings at no cost.
"The future of education begins with the charter school movement," Lhota said at the summit. "It is the single most progressive thing going on in public education today."
At the march, parents, children and their teachers chanted "No rent for the 99 percent," as they paraded from Brooklyn to City Hall.
"The majority of children in charter schools are from that other city that Bill de Blasio likes to tell tales about, yet their voices fall on deaf ears -- his deaf ears in particular," Lhota earlier told a business group, referring to his opponent's "Tale of Two Cities" campaign platform.
About 70,000 of the city's 1.1 million public school students attend 183 charter schools, which are publicly funded and privately run. The state mandate allows as many as 66 more charter schools to open in the city.
Meanwhile, U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty Tuesday heard arguments in a suit filed by an independent, conservative pro-Lhota group that says that the state's three-decade-old law capping political donations at $150,000 violates the First Amendment.
Crotty must decide whether the precedent set by the Supreme Court in Citizens United makes New York's law unconstitutional.
"In New York City, we need a lot of money to penetrate the airwaves to get the pro-Lhota message out," said Michael Carvin, an attorney for the pro-Lhota group.